Tango Research

Queer Tangueras and Rebellious Wallflowers

Tango Queer, Buenos Aires 2012, photo by Lea Hamoignon

Tango Queer, Buenos Aires 2012, photo by Lea Hamoignon

Juliet has spent many months in Buenos Aires, Argentina researching same-sex dancing among women. Her research examines both the queer tango movement—an international alliance of tango practitioners who seek to denaturalize the link between gender and the division of labor in a tango partnership—and what she calls "rebellion of the wallflower." Rebellious wallflowers do not necessarily identify with or attend queer tango events (although plenty do), but practice, teach, perform, and dance socially with other women when the mood or the situation suits them, without denying themselves the option of dancing the “traditional” woman’s role with men.  

Hoy en día, para resumirte, además de cuestiones de necesidad de tipo laboral, yo quiero bailar el rol masculino para completarme, para conocer, y sobre todo, para tener más poder. O sea para empoderarme. En ese empoderamiento no solo una de las retribuciones que puedo tener es un placer desconocido para mi, porque puedo tener placer bailando mi rol femenino. Atreverme a tener el otro placer.  Que es distinto, no es igual. Y también dar placer, de este lugar. Es distinto ¿no? Entonces, por razones ideológicas, por razones feministas, por razones políticas, por razones sociales, físicas, culturales y laborales y emocionales es que yo bailo y quiero bailar el rol masculino. [Today, to sum it up, in addition to business reasons, I want to dance the masculine role to complete myself, to know, and above all, to have more power. I mean, to empower myself. In this empowerment not only is one of the rewards that I can have an unknown pleasure for me, because I could have pleasure dancing the feminine role. To dare to take another pleasure. That is distinct, is not the same. And also to give pleasure from this place. It is distinct, no? Therefore, for ideological reasons, for feminist reasons, for political reasons, for social, physical, cultural, and business reasons, and emotional reasons, I dance and I want to dance the man’s role.] --Yuyú Herrera, Argentine tango dancer

Tango Competition

Juliet has also written about the Argentina’s Campeonato Mundial de Tango (World Tango Championships) in the context of tango’s history in the English-designed ballroom dance competitions that have defined tango’s international image since tangomania of the early twentieth century. Use of the Mundial by the Argentine government to advance commercial and national branding agendas is examined in conjunction with the Mundial’s use by dancers to launch careers and expand acceptance of same-sex dancing. It is argued that Argentines are redefining tango competition on their own terms in ways that both reclaim the dance from foreigners and simultaneously reproduce some of the same aesthetic shifts that were effected through tango’s inclusion in ballroom dance competitions, resulting in a whiter, more homogenous, and externally-focused expression.

Beyond Tango Escenario

Juliet is currently working on a project about experimental tango choreographers attempting to move beyond the clichés of stage tango. This research explores challenges produced by tango’s location at the intersection of cultural heritage, tourist commodity, social practice, and performing art.

Publications:

McMains, Juliet. “Re-Claiming Competitive Tango: The Rise of Argentina’s Campeonato Mundial.” In Oxford Handbook of Dance and Competition, edited by Sherril Dodds. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.

McMains, Juliet. “Rebellious Wallflowers and Queer Tangueras: Female Leaders in Buenos Aires’ Argentine Tango Scene.” Forthcoming.

McMains, Juliet. “Queer Tango Space: Minority Stress, Sexual Potentiality, and Gender Utopias.” TDR: The Drama Review, in press.

McMains, Juliet. “Salsa or Tango: Which Latin Dance is Right for You?” Oxford University Press Blog, July 23, 2015.

McMains, Juliet. “Efectos problemáticos de la terminología ‘leader/follower.’” Translated by Olaya Aramo. The Queer Tango Project: Critical Ideas and Resources about Queer Tango, 2015.

McMains, Juliet. “McMains, Juliet. “Troubling Effects of Leader/Follower Terminology.” In The Queer Tango Book: Ideas, Images and Inspiration in the 21st Century, edited by Birthe Havmoeller, Ray Batchelor and Olaya Ara, 59–61, 2015. (download pdf)